St.Thomas University graduate Sawyer Hannay has his own clothing line. Sherry Han Photo.

GRADUATING WITH A DEGREE, AND A BUSINESS

BY SHERRY HAN

When the weather turns into minus-twenty-something days, and the kinds of mornings when you open the door and a snow drift falls in, and you’re a user of public transit, it would be nice to know where your bus is before you get to the stop.

University of New Brunswick graduate Alex Kall, a regular user of public transit, had spent his share of time waiting blindly at the bus stop. Somewhere in all the waiting, he saw a business opportunity.

Kall and his co-founders Amy Colford and Taeler Dixon created a smartphone app called ReadyPass, which is the smart bus upgrade every city needs and deserves.

Kall, Colford and Dixon are among an increasing number of university students who are graduating with degrees, and with ideas for startups and new businesses, often launching enterprises before they are finished their studies.

Kall says employment trends have changed significantly in the last two decades, and there’s less expectation that new graduates will be able to have a long-term career with a single large employer. For a new generation of entrepreneur graduates, creating a business is more attractive than interviewing for a job.

“I think that more people are trying to take their employment and earning potential into their own hands by starting businesses,” he says. “It’s also very exciting to start your own business, so I think it attracts a certain type of person.”

The idea for ReadyPass came to Kall one morning on the bus ride to his Monday morning class at UNB. He was late. That morning, he had waited for the bus for more than 10 minutes before he realized it had already passed him by.

“The inspiration for the business came out of our own personal experiences and frustration with the transit systems we had used, and our belief that we could help make them better,” Kall says.

The City of Fredericton officially launched the ReadyPass smartphone app earlier this fall.

Kall says the app is all about improving access and the experience of public transit users. Fredericton transit users can track buses and plan their daily routes.

“We add real-time tracking, easy routing, electronic tickets and data analysis to make not just the buses, but the whole city run more smoothly,” Kall said.

He says the app will help transit users get to their stops on time.

“When it’s minus forty and there’s three feet of snow, it’s not nice to wait at a bus stop not knowing where the bus is,” Kall said.

St.Thomas University graduate Sawyer Hannay is now running his own business, a new clothing brand called Country Liberty.

Hannay is a former professional hockey player who played university hockey while earning his degree. He’s tall and athletic. On the basketball court he can do just about anything: jam with style, post up , shoot like a guard.

When Hannay was 19 he moved to Salzburg, Austria, in the pursuit of a professional hockey career. There, he found himself outside his cultural norm and came up with an idea to create a product that could represent his culture, upbringing, and lifestyle.

“Our inspiration is easy. It is all around us every day and that’s what makes the brand so natural,” Hannay says. “Our brand is a true reflection of that.”

He started selling Country Liberty clothing in 2015 at the UNB retail store and also online.

“For the longest time our products were not made available to everybody,” he says. “Too many brands force their product on their customers, we did not want to be one of them, as it is not the country way. ”

Hannay plans to pursue a Master’s Degree at UNB and keep expanding his brand.

“Now we have joined the main social media sites, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. We have band members wearing our products to their shows all over Eastern Canada as we continue to move west. ” Hannay says.

Recently, programs and events have been organized to help students create their own businesses. The Pond-Deshpande Centre at UNB encourages entrepreneurship in New Brunswick and the region by working with entrepreneurs, emerging and aspiring companies, students, faculty and alumni.

The Centre’s student ambassadors recently organized start-up weekend and a youth entrepreneurship summit to encourage young people to seize opportunities, leverage support and join the entrepreneurial community in Atlantic Canada.

This year, more students than ever have gotten involved. Third year UNB student Connor Morand is one of them. He’s passionate about music and wants to start a music-related business.

“I think the biggest thing is you just have to be on board,” he said. “You have to find something you truly enjoy. And you have to extremely passionate about it. No way of life is going be easy. If you are truly passionate about what you do, it isn’t going to matter in the end. And you will find successes.”